Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
QB Brandon Allen
The home stretch in the SEC is never easy, but in 2014, the Hogs should be playing for a spot in a bowl game.
The final string of games starts on Nov. 1 with the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Head coach Dan Mullen was on the hot seat entering November, but the Bulldogs beat Arkansas in overtime, then shut down Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl to finish 6-6 and earn a bowl bid, securing his job for 2014 according to Tom Layberger.
After beating Mississippi State 12 out of 13 times from 1999 to 2011, the Bulldogs have won the last two meetings. They found their quarterback of the future in Dak Prescott, who, despite splitting time with Tyler Russell, passed for over 1,600 yards and ran for 751 and 11 touchdowns.
Starkville is a very noisy environment, especially with the cowbells blaring. A win here could catapult Arkansas into its final three games, though that will be easier said than done.
There's a little switch up in the schedule for the next match on Nov. 15. After the Hogs' second and last bye week, they host LSU in what is usually the final game of the regular season for both teams.
Whatever both teams' records are, you can throw them out the window in the Battle for the Golden Boot.
When Arkansas and LSU meet, it almost always comes down to the final few possessions. The 2013 season was not kind to the Razorbacks, but they nearly beat the Tigers in Death Valley. Expect another down-to-the-wire grudge match in 2014. Home-field advantage is huge anytime these two teams meet, which is good news for Arkansas with the game being in Fayetteville.
The Hogs close their 2014 campaign with a road and home game, starting with Ole Miss on Nov. 22. The Rebels are an up-and-coming program, but like LSU, Arkansas versus Ole Miss is typically a close contest.
Ole Miss loses just one starter on offense and three on defense. The Rebels have very big, physical receivers, and the key matchup could be the Arkansas secondary against Ole Miss' wideouts. The Hogs will also need to play soundly on defense and avoid letting it get into a shootout.
The regular season closes for the Razorbacks with a trip to Columbia to face the Missouri Tigers on Nov. 29.
Missouri got a bid to the Cotton Bowl and won the SEC East in its first season in the nation's toughest conference. They were expected to take their punches before accomplishing something like that, but make no mistake, the Tigers are full of very talented players.
The biggest blow is losing senior signal-caller James Franklin, but with it being the final game of the season, the quarterback change shouldn't be a factor.
As stated, Arkansas should be vying for a bowl bid come November. The Hogs can win each of the last four games, but don't expect them to sweep the slate in the last month. Teams are at the top of their games come the end of the season, and the Razorbacks will have to be at the top of theirs to avoid ending 2014 on a sour note.
The Hogs didn't win a game in the SEC for the first time since joining the conference. It's not realistic to think they will have the type of turnaround Auburn did this year, but Arkansas not winning a conference game for the second season in a row isn't realistic either.
While there is a lot Bielema will have to address this offseason, the Hogs should be much improved in 2014. The duo of Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins is only going to get better, and the wideout position saw some guys step up to end the year, especially Keon Hatcher.
The defense was gashed in many games, but it returns seven starters and in the four lost, they have guys stepping in that played key roles throughout the year.
Ultimately, the success of the Razorbacks next season could come down to quarterback play, which plagued them all of 2013. Brandon Allen is going to have to win his job in the offseason after having a very inconsistent year.
Regardless, Arkansas should make a return to the postseason and put away a forgettable 2013 season in the process.
Projected Final Record: 7-5 (3-5 SEC)
All player stats are from ESPN.com. For more information on the Arkansas Razorbacks, follow Bryan Heater @BHeaterRivals.